14 taken to hospitals after Minneapolis fire

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MINNEAPOLIS -- A billowing fire engulfed a three-story building with several apartments near downtown Minneapolis early Wednesday, sending more than a dozen people to hospitals with injuries -- some critical -- ranging from burns to trauma associated with falls.

An explosion was reported about 8:15 a.m., and within minutes a fire raged through the building, said Robert Ball, a spokesman for Hennepin County Emergency Medical Services. Paramedics, amid subzero temperatures, responded to find victims on the ground, some with injuries that suggested they may have fallen multiple stories.

No fatalities have been reported, but authorities weren't sure whether any residents were still inside the building. Its roof had partially collapsed, making it too dangerous for firefighters to enter and sweep the premises, said Assistant Minneapolis Fire Chief Cherie Penn.

Some of those taken to hospitals were suffering from burns, broken bones or both.

Officials said it wasn't immediately clear what caused the fire. CenterPoint Energy spokeswoman Becca Virden said there were no natural gas leaks in the area.

Plumes of thick, whitish-gray smoke could be seen rising from the building Wednesday morning, which has a grocery store on the ground floor and two levels of apartments above it. Flames could be seen through third-story windows, and the frigid air was filled was the acrid smell of smoke.

Minneapolis Fire Chief John Fruetel said the fire was essentially out by late Wednesday afternoon. He said none of the fire crew members was hurt, adding that they did a great job under "extreme conditions."


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